Humanities Class

Curriculum By Form

Third Form

The Third Form course of study is a coordinated program focused on understanding the foundations of Western Civilization. All Third Form students study basic theology, introduction to literature, Latin 1, ancient history and the appropriate course in mathematics. (Students with previous experience in Latin may elect to take Latin 2 or fulfill the Latin requirement by successfully completing a Latin 1 placement test.) The study of Latin fosters greater fluency in written language by providing students with an understanding of grammar and syntax and by giving them a better sense of the composition of ideas into a coherent sentence. Ancient/medieval history lays a foundation for an historical sense by recognizing what is common in the beliefs, language, thought, and institutions of other cultures and of our own. In addition to the core described above, students choose one or two more courses from the areas of modern languages, conceptual physics, and the arts. Portsmouth Abbey believes that its Third Form curriculum is an excellent way for a student to begin a secondary school career. The core curriculum provides students with a strong foundation in our language and culture as well as developing the skills and techniques necessary for future study.

Fourth Form

Students in the Fourth Form fulfill their Christian Doctrine, English, and European history requirements by taking an integrated course in humanities. In addition to humanities (which counts as two courses), Fourth Form students take foreign language (classical or modern) and mathematics. Also, Fourth Form students elect one or two courses (normally two) from conceptual physics, chemistry, the arts, a second foreign language, or other electives. In fact, the "three-for-two" nature of humanities presents an excellent opportunity for Fourth Form students to continue their study of both classical and modern languages or to pursue an interest in the arts.

Fifth & Sixth Forms

Students in the Fifth and Sixth Forms normally carry a course load of Christian Doctrine, English and four other courses.A wide range of elective courses is available to students in the Fifth and Sixth Forms, including advanced work in English, foreign language, history, mathematics, science, and the arts. AP courses are available to qualified students in many areas of study. Students in the Sixth Form are encouraged to pursue independent study in place of a traditional course or to take on a Sixth Form Project.

Curriculum By Department

With over 10 academic departments and a range of special programs and electives, there is something at the Abbey to pique the interest of every student.

Christian Doctrine

Christian Doctrine is, most simply, about the teaching of Christ. Courses in the department seek to explore what it means to follow Christ, and how the Catholic tradition has understood and lived its faith. While instruction in all classes contributes to the student's spiritual growth, the Christian Doctrine curriculum uniquely provides an opportunity to explore matters of faith.

The Christian Doctrine curriculum accompanies the intellectual development of our students, enabling them to integrate their experience of moral and religious life into their academic life. The curriculum is designed for students of all religious backgrounds, presenting the Christian faith in the context of reasoned and reflected apologetics, and addressing matters universally pertaining to the human person.

Basic Theology provides an introduction to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth through a reading of the Holy Bible. Who was Jesus of Nazareth, and why is he called the "Christ"? What is the Bible, and how should we interpret it?

In reading the Scriptures, students also encounter many basic questions: questions of who I am, of what our world is like, of what it means to believe in God.

They encounter questions of morality and of how we should live our lives. They begin to discover questions of meaningfulness and sincerity, of trying to more fully understand who we are. Basic Theology looks at some fundamental Biblical responses to such questions, and engages students in an ongoing dialogue to explore Christian faith and its claims.

Faith and Church presents Form V students with an opportunity to develop their understanding of religious experience, and thus of themselves. This three part course centers on three texts: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Framed by the work of C.S. Lewis, students will discuss the essential message of Christ's moral teaching in a way that is relevant and applicable to the lives of teenagers in our world today.

The study of the religions of the world, guided by Smith, enables our internationally diverse student body to gain an awareness of the polyphony of religious life around the globe.

And Frankl’s analysis of the “search for meaning” connects directly to each student’s own search, and provides occasion to look in depth at important moral questions. The course thus seeks to deepen each student’s understanding of the meaning of important church teachings on morality and faith in our present-day world, while placing an emphasis on the development of one's own conscience and character.

In Form VI, "Faith and Life" is divided into three separate elements, along the lines of the transcendentals of ancient and medieval theology: the good, the true, and the beautiful. In moral experience, we encounter “the good,” and consider how our decisions in life shape us. In aesthetic experience, we encounter beauty. Our study of Sacred Art sees art (visual art, poetry, literature, etc.) as being about something. That “something” is God's merciful creation and salvation of mankind and our eternal destiny in Him. In intellectual life, we see an array of approaches to the question of “the true.” Here the course explores several dialogues of Plato, offering a basic introduction to philosophy.

Students will take away from the full course a deeper self-understanding, as well as a broader perspective on the contemporary world in its search for meaning and truth.

The three transcendentals of goodness, truth, and beauty are thus used in this class as springboards to teach a Catholic theology appropriate to and of vital interest to Portsmouth Abbey School Sixth Form students about to embark into the secular world and anticipating their future college or university research.

This course extends beyond the classroom and into an active and challenging exploration and performance of Sacred Music.

The Schola has the opportunity to learn more about music and its connection to the expression of the sacred.

The class also rehearses advanced sacred music and supplies music for all school liturgies. The Schola has the opportunity to work with both the school's Director of Music as well as with the Director of Spiritual Life, in discovering the vitality in music, a central element in the history of Benedictine spirituality. Participation in the Schola, which is limited to Form VI, is based on competitive auditions.


Study of the Classical languages helps create a sense of the continuity in Western history, thought and language.

A grounding in Latin is extremely beneficial: it enriches verbal resources, teaches careful reading, clarity of thought and accuracy of expression, provides insight into the grammar and vocabulary of English, and facilitates the study of all modern languages. Elementary courses emphasizing vocabulary, syntax and translation skills are designed to encourage students to continue beyond the second year into appreciative reading of major authors and comprehension of the legacy of the Roman World at the third and fourth year levels. There are also elective courses, after Latin 3, which prepare for the Advanced Placement Examination. 

Do you ever think about where certain English words come from? Did you know that "peninsula" means "almost an island?" Do you want to know the difference between "e.g." and "i.e.?" Do you want to know what "etc." means? Do you want to know the difference between "who" and "whom?" Do you want to know the difference between the active and passive voice? You will learn all of these things in Latin I and then some! This course will introduce you to the fundamentals of the Latin language, and in the process, you will learn more about the workings of the English language. As you learn the vocabulary and forms of Latin, you will learn to think logically and with very close attention to detail. By reading adapted passages of Livy, Terence, Cicero, Caesar, Horace, Vergil, and Ovid in Latin for the New Millennium, you will be in direct contact with the Latin authors who helped shape the English language and English literature.

The story of Latin continues in the Latin II course as you read authors of the medieval period while also reading un-adapted passages of Cicero.  You will hone your translation skills as you learn more complex rules of Latin grammar. As a result, you will also develop an appreciation for the English language and its more complicated constructions, such as the difference between a gerund and a participle. By the end of the year, you will be ready to tackle Latin literature!

Have you ever found yourself reading Vergil's Aeneid or a myth told by Ovid and wondered what the actual Latin words were? In this class, you will do just that! You don't have to read a translation of a poem by Horace, a political speech of Cicero, or an example of leadership by Caesar.  You will read the original Latin and learn to analyze the style of each author. You can also get dating advice from the poet Ovid! As you read both prose and poetry, you will come across figures of speech such as litotes and transferred epithet that you will also see in your English classes. By the end of this course, you will be ready to take on the challenge of the Advanced Placement course.

When you hear the name Julius Caesar, you probably think of the dictator in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. But did you know that Caesar was also famous for his writing style? While conquering Gaul (modern-day France), Caesar wrote "commentaries" describing his conquests and the characteristics of the people he encountered. Writing in the 3rd person about his own accomplishments and failures, he reported his victories to the Roman Senate and people. Was it an unbiased account? Read the Commentaries on the Gallic War and find out! 

The Advanced Placement syllabus also includes the epic poem of Rome's most famous poet Vergil. In the Aeneid, you will travel with Aeneas from Troy to Rome in an effort to establish a new city, but you will encounter diversions and distractions along the way.  While Caesar presents his account in a factual and historical manner, Vergil's poetic language and devices will tug on your heartstrings and pull you into the fall of Troy.

You have heard the phrase, "It's all Greek to me!" It doesn't have to be anymore! Similar to Latin, the Greek language is the basis for so many of our English words. Every day words such as "monopoly," "dialogue," "photograph," and "telephone" all stem from the Greek language.

Greek roots form the basis of so many of our medical terms; your life in medical school will be so much easier if you know these Greek roots.

In order to learn Greek, you must first learn the Greek alphabet; imagine using a whole new alphabet? Once you can read the Greek language and understand these new letters, you will start to learn the foundations of the grammatical system, picking up new vocabulary words along the way. You will translate individual sentences as well as adapted passages of Herodotus, Homer and Plato. Knowing Latin will help you learn the Greek language, but it is not necessary to have studied Latin before learning Greek.

The students review and complete the acquisition of basic grammar, expand their vocabulary, and begin reading extended pieces from the works of such authors as Aristophanes, Plato and the Historians.

The course expands the student’s knowledge of the classical Greek heritage through advanced reading of Homer, 5th century Attic writers, and the New Testament.

This is an advanced reading course of texts suited to the students; the teaching is shared among the members of the Department to further enlarge the student’s understanding of the Ancient World.


The English Department seeks above all to fulfill the declaration in the School's Mission Statement: "We believe it is vitally important to introduce our students to the classics and the best of the Western intellectual tradition." It is no accident that such a conviction should prevail at a Catholic and Benedictine school, since the Benedictines have a long history of devotion to the incarnate Word and a fearless recognition of the classics. A Benedictine education not only provides a basis for articulating the “old verities and truths of the heart,” as William Faulkner spoke of, but also frees the student to independently carry and transmit the magnificence of the Western tradition with clarity and relevance. 

This literary feast presents students with the purpose and vitality of literature. The course introduces students to the four major Aristotelian genres (epic, comedy, tragedy, and lyric) while simultaneously measuring up the cultural heritage of the three great civilizations of the west (Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem) against their own. Oedipus Tyrannus confronts students with the experience of necessity—so much happens outside of our control. The Odyssey presents a vista through which students may see the things that are universal and necessary for civilized life—home, clever survival, and long-suffering patience. Shakespeare’s plays Julius Caesar, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet introduce us to the essence of Shakespeare—the problems of trust (who to trust and why?), authority (does a title grant real authority?), and the inheritance of the future (who gets it?). By the end of the year, students will also have delved into the world of poetry with a clear method for encountering and appreciating any lyric voice.

What does it mean to be American? What do our greatest writers tell us about the American experience? Since this country was founded upon noble principles—liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the principle of subsidiarity—American literature insists that we consider the deep implications of any human attempt to live out such ideals and the folly of that same endeavor. Moby Dick perfectly places students on the unlikely adventure of the Pequod, where they learn the preposterous truths of the peculiar American adventure. Hawthorne reminds us that original sin, "the bosom serpent," darkens every soul and complicates every relationship, just as The Age of Innocence shows us that the social expectations of New England persist in the inextricable puritanism of the place. Fifth Form students read these classics while they also take American History, serving as a year-long education in the American genius.

The Sixth Form seminar prepares students for the demands of a college literature course. The seminar completes the students’ education in the Western tradition, as such the works read are vital to the Western tradition. However, the themes and texts do vary from section to section, as similar to college courses. Some recent offerings have included "Satire" (from Juvenal to Swift to Stephen Colbert); "Utopian Literature" (Plato's Republic, More's Utopia, Huxley's Brave New World); “Classical Epics” (The Iliad, The Aeneid, and Gilgamesh); and “Russian Literature” (Pushkin, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, Gogol’s Dead Souls, and Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich). In all cases, the English Seminar and Thesis is an intensive reading, writing, and speaking course. Students are responsible for seminar discussions and write a literary-critical thesis, on a book and topic of their own choosing, in the Spring Term.

The Iron Law of AP English is "close attention to words," the crucial skill of every real reader, writer, and speaker. Students will learn the ways of words from the masters, through daily explication of classic verse. The readings include Renaissance sonnets, Metaphysical lyrics, and modern dramatic monologues. We also study three Shakespearean genres: history in Henry IV, Part 1; tragedy in King Lear; and the problem play in Measure for Measure. Students write frequent ex tempore close reading essays, along with a Spring Term Thesis. Discussion participation is crucial, as in a college seminar, along with memorized poetry recitations.

According to Homer, Hephaistos was given by Thetis a place apart from the eyes of the Olympians, where he could perfect his artistry while his wounds, his immortal wounds, healed. This class is like that place apart. It is a workshop course where students learn and practice the art of poiesis (imaginative creation). Students not only learn the expectations of poetic and lyric styles, but also how to break those rules. Students practice their writing by imitating traditional forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, the senryu, and many other Western and Eastern forms. One collaborative form of prose that students enjoy is the flash fiction ekphrasis, a (very) short story inspired by a work of art. Students try their hand at poetry, prose, screenplays, and creative non-fiction. Students share their work with their classmates and submit their best pieces to The Raven, the School's award-winning literary journal.


Our School Mission challenges us to base our exploration of the past in the “spiritual education of the heart, soul, and mind.” Thus, we conceive of history not simply as an edifying entertainment or utilitarian exercise in citizen building, but as a moral exercise: the critical examination of what our human nature has wrought in its ever-changing physical, cultural and temporal settings.

Guiding students through the Ancient and Medieval experiences and into those of Modern Europe, the history curriculum introduces the great personalities, ideas, and decisions which shaped Western Civilization. The investigation of the American experience follows naturally from this genealogy of the West. Our dedication to the development of insightful reading, critical thinking, and compelling speech and writing concludes with electives in the social sciences, global history, and a focused national case study.

It turns out we've always been us! Our first foray into the past introduces Third Form students to this greatest, most humbling, but, ultimately, most liberating truth that Clio has to offer: The strange looking folks in the rear-view mirror are more like us than they first appear. This inquiry into the peoples and cultures of the earliest river valley civilizations, Egypt, Greece, and pagan and Christian Rome also familiarizes students with the methodologies and philosophies of history that will inform their subsequent work in the discipline. While recognizing their inseparability, we prioritize the role of the human person over abstract forces in our story. Call it "radical traditionalism" if you like, but it fires the imagination! This inspiring and practical exercise in reading, thinking, speaking and writing like historians prepares our scholars for the mounting intellectual challenges of the Humanities course that follows.

Who are the Americans? How, if at all, do the people and nation differ from others around the globe? From the first colonial generation of the 17th Century through our own, Americans have wrestled with this identity issue and its profound implications. It has shaped the collective imagination and countless individual perspectives. In tracing the national experience through its characters great and small, we attempt to define that deeply rooted, but evolving, sense of self. Close reading of primary and secondary texts, discussion and debate, and both critical/analytical and research writing challenge students in the development of the discipline's sophisticated skill set. This vital intellectual exercise yields young men and women confident in their growing ability to think about the American story like historians.

This course guides our brightest and most motivated scholars in the pursuit of two practical goals: efficient preparation for the Advanced Placement standardized test in the spring and a confident facility with the philosophies and methodologies necessary to a sophisticated understanding of the American past. Our historians-in-training learn to manage the details (and tensions) of realistic narratives in support of the analysis and criticism of the human agency at the heart of both continuity and change. More than a decade of exemplary test scores and grateful graduate testimonies attest to the value of this multidimensional academic exercise. The class makes serious demands...and repays them handsomely.

America's smallest state has enjoyed a crucial impact on American history. From Roger Williams' stubborn insistence on freedom of conscience, through ingenious capitalists' fiery resistance to British tyranny, to Newport's Gilded Age society and beyond, Rhode Islanders innovate and adapt to challenges. Along the way, the students will debate the achievements and foibles of unique figures like Anne Hutchinson, the Brown Brothers, and Alva Belmont. This full-year elective course demands the type of scholarly research, historiographical study, and student-led discussion that they will confront at the nation's most selective colleges.

This is a rigorous examination of European History from the 14th century to the present. It seeks to address the ideas, forces, personalities, and events that have shaped European history across eight levels of historical analysis: political, economic, social, military, technological, cultural, religious and intellectual. Critical analysis of historical documents is stressed. The course continually seeks to show the relevance of history to today’s world and to the future.

Why try to study the human story from a global perspective? The technological revolution of the past two decades has dramatically expanded contact of all kinds among the societies and cultures of the world. This has increased the need for understanding other, seemingly very different peoples. Considering the period 8000 B.C. to the present, this course examines the evolution of processes and interactions among people from every corner of the earth, but especially Europe, China, India, Japan, and the Middle East. It emphasizes comparative analysis and addresses major changes in world dynamics, their causes and consequences. Students complete this survey prepared for the AP standardized test and with a broader understanding of the countless fields of historical inquiry available to them in college.

If it's true that people get the government they deserve, then we better study the thing carefully to merit the very best! The first in a series of social science offerings, this course introduces students to the study of politics, government and the state. It examines the basic ideas of the discipline including power, democracy, totalitarianism, federalism, and institutional causality. The workings of the American government are highlighted as well as the constant working out and redefining of American liberties by the Supreme Court. By the end of this exercise, students enjoy a broad, fundamental understanding of the workings of government both here in the U.S. and in many other places around the world.

This award-winning endeavor provides students with a thought-provoking primer on the ever-contentious, but always fascinating discipline of macroeconomics. An historical approach is employed to introduce the student to the ideas of the great economists of the past two centuries. The course focuses on the American economic system with in-depth study of the stock and bond markets, the Federal Reserve System and the growth and influence of large corporate structures in economic life. Contemporary problems like inflation, recession, and international trade are also explored and debated. Students use a problem-solving approach to the political struggle between economic interests and to the tension between free enterprise and the environment.

This course examines the development and practice of foreign policy by nations of the world today. Using pressing contemporary problems, students gain insight into how governments (and the public and private interests that influence them) formulate their approaches to one another across national boundaries. The exercise yields thinkers better equipped to discover the important truths beyond the sound bites and headlines of the mass media that dominate the discourse on the intercourse between nations.


The Humanities curriculum, which substitutes for separate offerings in English, History, and Christian Doctrine, provides all Fourth Form students with a solid foundation in each of these disciplines through an intensive interdisciplinary grounding in the language, literature, history, and thought of the West from St. Paul and St. Augustine to the present. Seminars provide students with the opportunity to analyze and discuss the great books of the Western Tradition, while lectures and plenary sessions provide necessary background and context. Small writing sections allow for individual work in writing and in critical thinking and help to sharpen student skills in rhetoric and poetics. Texts read last year include Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Joyce, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas More, Descartes, Pascal, Locke, Marx, and St. Thomas Aquinas.


The objectives of the Mathematics Department are to develop critical thinking skills, train students to become problem solvers, and foster concise logical reasoning skills. To achieve this goal, the Department has placed a strong emphasis on problem solving in our formative courses (Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II), where students develop the strategies and skills needed to solve challenging word problems and to learn to express their solutions in a logical manner.

Developing a solid base of skills and techniques early on will help foster a foundation that will bring success in our higher level courses. Like a building that is only as strong as its foundation, successful mathematics students, too, have built upon a firm grasp of skills, techniques, and strategies that our Department helps lay in order to ensure a lasting success in their studies of Mathematics.

The department employs the programmable graphing calculator as a valuable aid in the teaching and learning of mathematics. In particular, the use of the TI-nspire CX CAS is required in all math classes. Accepting that technology is a powerful tool to help further deeper learning, the Department acknowledges that the graphing calculator is an aide to learning, not an alternative to understanding. Students develop the basic skills and techniques and use technology to gain a better understanding of the mathematics being studied.

Students who enter the program at any level are placed as close as possible to the point that their previous preparation warrants. New students are placed by the Department Chair, who bases their placement on standardized tests scores, official transcripts, and previous teacher recommendations. Irrespective of the requirement, nearly all students take mathematics during each of their years at Portsmouth Abbey.

All of the greatest discoveries in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics begin with the mastery of Algebra 1. The field properties of the real numbers are used throughout the development of this course. Within this framework, Algebra I includes the study of polynomials, equations and inequalities, linear functions, systems of equations, factoring and fractions, exponents and radicals, general quadratic equations and quadratic functions. Students get their first taste of mathematical modeling in this course.

Everyone knows that the sides of a right triangle fit the pattern , but in Geometry you do not have to take someone's word for it - you can actually prove it to yourself! In geometry - for the first time, really - students begin to see that they can actually provide the reasons that allow them to show the correct solutions. Many people say they learned how to think and win arguments after taking a proof-oriented geometry course. The principal concern of this course is to make the student articulate about geometric concepts. Working with undefined terms, definitions, postulates and theorems, the student's intuition is tested and a logical structure is constructed. Where necessary, related algebraic skills are reviewed and integrated into the course. There is normally one Honors section of this course.

The principal concern of this traditional proof-oriented geometry course is to make the student articulate about geometric concepts. Working with undefined terms, definitions, postulates and theorems, the student's intuition is tested and a logical structure is constructed. Where necessary, related algebraic skills are reviewed integrated into the course.

Take a stroll around the plane and answer big questions such as:  Am I real? Rational? Irrational? Imaginary? Complex? This is also the course where you learn how functions can help you model the real world. There is a general development of functions with the emphasis on linear, polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions. Sequences, series, and elementary concepts of probability are also studied. There is normally one Honors section of this course.

The topics covered include functions and their graphs (including polynomial, rational, algebraic, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions), analytic geometry, polar coordinates, complex numbers, sequences, series, and limits. The TI-nspire CX CAS continues to be used to enhance and support the student’s mathematical understanding.

A primary objective of this course is to broaden the student's understanding of the logical structure of mathematics. Material covered includes: mathematical induction, analytic geometry (including rotation of axes), trigonometry, field axioms, complex numbers, functions and their graphs (including polynomial, rational, algebraic, trigonometric, exponential and logarithmic), and probability. The course concludes with an intensive exploration of the numerical aspects of limits, sequences and series, and the integral to provide a foundation for AP Calculus BC.

Through active learning, the students learn to look for an overall pattern in a set of data as well as how to interpret the deviations from that pattern. Students learn the fundamental concepts of inferential and descriptive statistics while completing the College Board AP Statistics syllabus, equivalent to one semester of undergraduate statistics. (Note: Algebra II/Introduction to Analysis is a prerequisite for this course but may be taken concurrently with the permission of the Department.)

In life, nothing remains the same forever. Calculus helps you understand and appreciate the "how" and "why" of change. Students learn the fundamental concepts and applications of differential and integral calculus while completing the College Board AP Calculus AB syllabus, equivalent to one semester of undergraduate calculus.

The College Board AP Calculus BC syllabus, equivalent to two semesters of undergraduate calculus, is completed. Calculus BC includes the Calculus AB syllabus, with some topics explored in more depth, as well as additional work with parametric, vector, and polar functions and infinite series.

This is a reading course for students who have completed the AP Calculus BC examination with a score of 5. The most recent topics include: computer science, linear algebra, vector calculus, real analysis, and topology.

Do you want to learn the basic concepts underlying the software in the many devices in our lives that are powered by microprocessors? The College Board AP Computer Science syllabus is completed, equivalent to one semester of introductory undergraduate computer science.

Modern Languages

The general goal of these years of instruction is communication: understanding, speaking, reading and writing in the new language. These goals are achieved through patterned drills, vocabulary acquisition, detailed presentations of grammar, reading short texts and writing compositions. In the first two years of language study, special emphasis is placed on oral comprehension and speaking. In the upper level courses, emphasis is placed on direct comprehension of literary texts rather than translation.

Through intensive study of literature, students are encouraged to think critically and to appreciate the culture of the language studied.Students are also given ample opportunity to speak and listen in the language as well as to write lengthier compositions.

Throughout the program, the students are also introduced to the culture and civilization of the nations where the language is spoken. Placement in the following courses is done by the Department Head after careful consideration of the student's previous experience. 

Modern language students have the option of participating in a studies abroad program to Spain, France or China.

Students are introduced to basic vocabulary, French pronunciation, and elementary grammar structure. The majority of the class is conducted in French. Students begin communicating in French from the first class day. As their knowledge base grows, students incorporate vocabulary and grammar in groups of practical scenarios. While practicing the language, students also learn about the people, places, and customs of the French-speaking world through cultural reading. The book Pauvre Anne by Blaine Ray is read to work on reading comprehension. Throughout the year, students are evaluated on their written, oral, listening, and reading comprehension ability.

In this course vocabulary expansion and basic study of grammar is completed. The language becomes a tool by which students engage in meaningful communication. The students learn to talk about travel, food, health, and shopping vocabulary and are required to use this information in artistic projects and oral presentations. The emphasis is placed on specific vocabulary and verb tenses and students begin to apply both in conversation. The students also learn about French culture and history by reading stories and writing more frequently. The class is conducted entirely in French.

Students continue learning vocabulary and more basic grammar structures as well as to read and write in the new language. The language becomes a tool by which students engage in meaningful conversation. The emphasis is placed on verb tenses and students begin to apply them in conversation. Students learn to talk about travel, food, health, and shopping vocabulary and are required to use this information in artistic projects and oral presentations. The students learn about French culture and history by reading stories and writing more frequently. The class is conducted entirely in French.

In this course students continue to learn vocabulary and tackle new, more difficult grammar structures and verb tenses at a faster pace. Emphasis is placed on learning to write and to speak in the language using the complex grammar, verb tenses, and expressions presented in this course. Through textbook readings and online francophone newspapers, students practice their reading comprehension and become more familiar with the culture in French-speaking countries. Upon completion of the course, students may wish to take the SAT Subject Test in French. The class is conducted entirely in French.

In this course, students continue learning vocabulary, advanced grammar structures, and verb tenses at a faster pace. Emphasis is placed on learning to write and to speak in the language using the complex grammar, verb tenses, and expressions presented in the course. Through their readings of textbook selections, online francophone newspapers, and Alexandre Dumas’ Le Comte de Monte Cristo, students master reading comprehension and become more familiar with culture in French-speaking countries. Students perfect their abilities to speak, write, and read in French. Upon completion of the course, students may wish to take the SAT Subject Test in French. The course is conducted entirely in French.

This course focuses on a survey of French history, literature and grammar. Students begin with a concentrated review of grammar and learn to read for comprehension and full participation in class discussion. Francophone culture is researched and discussed by students by reading online newspapers.  An equal emphasis is placed on aural skills – both speaking and oral comprehension that are practiced through classroom discussions. The class is conducted entirely in French.

This course focuses on a survey of French history, literature and grammar. Students begin with a concentrated review of grammar and learn to read more carefully for comprehension and full participation in class discussion. An emphasis is placed on writing papers, long paragraphs and summaries. Students learn to rely on their knowledge and ability to comprehend through context and less on dictionaries. An equal emphasis is placed on aural skills – both speaking and oral comprehension that is practiced through research, class presentations as well as frequent classroom discussion. The course is conducted entirely in French.

This course prepares students for the French AP Language and Culture Exam which assesses speaking, listening comprehension, reading, writing and culture in francophone countries. The course focuses on integrating these skills authentically and meaningfully through a wide variety of exercises to enable effective communication on tasks and social situations with a native speaker. The course begins with an intense grammar review and a survey of francophone literature. Students learn more about French culture in many francophone countries through online news, research and readings. Students become proficient in reading and oral comprehension of authentic material, master the ability to speak and write in both formal and informal settings.  The Spring Term is devoted to practice for the AP exam using test materials and workbooks specifically designed for the exam. 

Students are introduced to basic vocabulary and elementary grammar structures. The majority of the class is conducted in Spanish. Students begin communicating in Spanish from the first day in class. As their knowledge base grows, students incorporate vocabulary and grammar in group presentations of practical scenarios. While practicing the language, students also learn about the people, places, and customs of the Spanish speaking world through cultural readings. Throughout the year, students are evaluated on their written, oral, listening, and reading comprehension ability.

In this course vocabulary expansion and basic study of grammar is completed. The language becomes a tool by which students engage in meaningful communication. The students learn to talk about travel, food, shopping, the environment, health, and outdoor activities. The students also learn about Spanish speaking cultures. The course is conducted entirely in Spanish.

In this course students complete their basic grammar study. The students are able to use the language to truly communicate through classroom discussion and debate. They learn vocabulary for travel, food, shopping, the environment, health and outdoor activities, and are required to use this information in artistic projects and oral presentations. The students also learn about Spanish-speaking cultures in the textbook, and by reading authentic stories from all over the Spanish speaking world. The course is conducted entirely in Spanish.

This course is designed for the student who has completed at least two years of Spanish. This course emphasizes the four communicative skills of listening, reading, speaking, and writing in a culturally authentic context. The development of advanced vocabulary, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing skills are stressed.  Reading selections from famous Spanish and Latin American literature are included to give the student a deeper insight into Hispanic civilizations and the culture of Spanish speaking people. Upon completion of the course, students may wish to take the SAT Subject Test in Spanish.  The course is conducted entirely in Spanish.

This course is designed for the student who has mastered the fundamentals of Spanish at the Spanish 2 level.  This accelerated course emphasizes the four communicative skills of listening, reading, speaking, and writing in a culturally authentic context. The development of advanced vocabulary, reading comprehension, speaking and writing skills are stressed. The coursework leads students to gain greater sophistication and breadth in their spoken and written expression.  Reading selections from famous Spanish and Latin American literature are included to give the student a deeper insight into Spanish and Latin American civilizations and culture of Spanish speaking people.  Students are expected to maintain a highly active participation level in class.  Upon completion of the course, students may wish to take the SAT Subject Test in Spanish.  The course is conducted entirely in Spanish.

This course concentrates on intensive and advanced study of Spanish and Latin American literature and history. Students learn about Spanish and Latin American culture through in-depth research projects and presentations on important historical figures, events, and places. A heavy emphasis is placed on oral communication through classroom discussion and debate. Students are required to form and express their opinions through reaction papers and class discussion. Current events are scrutinized whenever possible. Students also enhance their grammar skills through grammar review and composition essays. Listening comprehension is practiced daily since this course is conducted entirely in Spanish.

This course concentrates on intensive and advanced study of Spanish and Latin American literature and history.  Students learn about Spanish and Latin American culture through in-depth research projects and presentations on important events and historical figures.  A heavy emphasis is placed on oral communication through classroom discussion and debate.  Students are required to form and express their opinions about relevant topics.  They are also required to monitor the current events in a Spanish speaking country of their choice in order to become familiar with that country and later present personal conclusions to the class.  Students also enhance their grammar skills and their writing ability through grammar reviews, reaction papers, and creative essays.  Listening comprehension is practiced daily since this course is conducted entirely in Spanish.

This course prepares students for the Spanish AP Language Test which assesses the student’s speaking, listening comprehension, writing, and grammar abilities. The course focuses on integrating these skills authentically and meaningfully. The course begins with an intense grammar review and by the Spring Term the students are introduced to materials that closely duplicate the AP Exam.

This course prepares students to analyze and write compositions on selected 19th and 20th century Spanish and Latin American novelists, poets, and dramatists. As a prerequisite, students must have earned a 4 or 5 on the Spanish AP Language exam.

In this beginning course, students learn pronunciation patterns, tones, and basic grammatical structures. Vocabulary, numbers and basic greetings are used to prefect pronunciation. For speaking skill, approximately 250 words are introduced. For reading and writings, students learn 200 Chinese characters. Units on Chinese history and culture complement the language portion of the course. This course is open to students with no previous background in Chinese.

For this course, students should be able to communicate freely on familiar and personal topics. Students will continue to work on grammar and vocabulary to broaden their knowledge of vocabulary words and characters. For speaking skill, approximately 450 words are introduced. For reading and writing, students learn 400 Chinese characters. In this course, students learn more about the history and culture of China. This course is open to students who have completed a First Year Chinese Course.

This intermediate course gives students the opportunity to expand their oral and written knowledge of Chinese so that they are able to read short stories and discuss daily life topics in the target language. Students continue to build vocabulary and new words. In addition, the study of Chinese history and culture remain an integral part of the course.

This course aims to help students solidify their knowledge of spoken and written Chinese. Students develop reading strategies to comprehend material composed in formal written Chinese. Authentic resources (literature, newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs) are used. This course prepares students to continue their study of Chinese at an advanced level in college.

AP Chinese Language and Culture is intended for qualified students who are interested in completing studies comparable in content and difficulty to a full-year course at the second-year college level. The course is taught entirely in Chinese. The primary goal of AP Chinese is to enable students to master conventions of communication through the exploration of topics reflecting multiple aspects of Chinese society and culture, the use of various authentic multimedia and literary materials in different linguistic registers, advanced-level Chinese language structures, and expressive styles. Students in the course study the "five Cs" of language study.


The Science department at Portsmouth Abbey uses the lens of physics, chemistry, and biology to teach students how their world works and how to engage with the myriad of information presented to them as a result of the technological advancements of the 21st century.

The Scientific Method is a powerful tool when applied appropriately and students are deeply engaged in inquiry-based experiments that teach them the importance of curiosity, measurement, error analysis, and communication in any scientific endeavor. The most important goal in science education is helping students enjoy the rewards evaluating data and claims via experimentation. Students then use the lessons learned in their English, humanities, and other classes to effectively communicate the importance of the scientific concepts and their subsequent experimental results. It's impossible to do effective science without eventual communication of the results to the outside world.

The sequence of science offerings begins with physics, the most basic of the sciences, and the foundation upon which chemistry and then biology build. Science courses are designed with two major purposes in mind. First, students learn the methods of modern science, in particular its search for order in the universe through experimental and theoretical approaches. Second, they experience a thorough introduction to the three major divisions of natural science: physics, chemistry, and biology. Laboratory experiments are designed to expose students to the scientific method, which is a systematic way of evaluating information and solving a problem. Experiments show the unique procedures of science, help to demonstrate the nature of scientific proof, and illustrate the application of theoretical ideas to the physical world. Students have opportunities to produce original work through open inquiry and engage with the primary literature to get an "up close and personal" experience with the methods and ideas that have changed the way we interact with our world. 

Every time something moves, physics is involved.  It is the science that looks at the most basic aspects of time, space, and matter to understand how and why things move. The course starts with waves as seen in stretched springs and water tanks then we progress to sound waves and light waves.  Regular lab activities involve ripple tanks, tuning forks, singing pipes, colored lights, prisms, lenses, polarizing filters and diffraction gratings.  Computers and measuring probes are often used to help analyze data. The math used is easy and even Algebra 1 students are able to successfully solve problems that arise.  After studying waves is a unit on mechanics. Students examine individual moving objects and develop more tools for understanding their motion, including velocity, acceleration, force, momentum, and energy.  More exotic types of motion follow, including orbits due to universal gravitation and electricity moving through circuits with light bulbs and electromagnets.  With each new topic, students get involved with labs that use the appropriate "physics toys."

This is the class for those who enjoy a little extra challenge often in the mathematical direction. It is still at the level of Algebra 1, but students are frequently presented with extra puzzles to solve, both in word problems and in lab activities. As examples, the class looks at how the decibel scale of sound measurement really works.  They have an opportunity to measure the exact wavelength of laser light, and they study projectiles launched at angles, not just horizontally.

Understanding the world of chemistry is necessary to make informed decisions as scientifically literate citizens. Chemistry introduces students to the basic concepts which explain chemical behavior and to the idea that science is a process and a way of thinking rather than a mere collection of facts. This is accomplished by the most engaging aspect of the course - experimentation. Students learn how scientists acquire and then verify facts about their physical surroundings, and how they explain those facts by constructing theories. Students are encouraged to use real-world examples from their daily lives and to evaluate the chemical processes that are happening every day that may often be ignored. This can range from such simple questions as why does metal rust to more complex topics such as digestion and metabolism of the nutrients in our food. Essential topics covered include atomic structure, chemical reactions and mechanisms, conservation of matter and energy, bonding, equilibrium, acid-base behavior, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. Fundamental chemical concepts as well as basic problem solving are emphasized. These concepts are reinforced by hands on laboratory experiments and inquiry based investigations. Throughout the laboratory aspect of the course the principles of Green Chemistry are emphasized and employed. The laboratory component of the course helps students become good researchers and realize that Chemistry is not confined to a textbook but is relevant and part of their everyday world.

Chemistry honors is a more rigorous examination of chemical principles than chemistry. Investigative laboratory experiments are used to introduce the fundamental chemistry concepts. The students collect data, search for regularities and common threads, and develop hypotheses. The lab work provides the foundation for our consideration of major chemical concepts. Throughout the course, unifying principles and integrating concepts are emphasized. This approach helps students realize chemistry is not a mere collection of facts; rather it is a field where one observes, assimilates questions, evaluates and draws conclusions.

Chemistry AP continues the work begun in chemistry with special emphasis on the six BIG IDEAS of the AP curriculum. Laboratory investigation is critical to the course.  The lab work is inquiry based where students are required to devise and implement their own schemes of analysis to solve specific lab problems. Collaboration and independent thinking are critical. The relationship between experimentation and theory is developed. Students are engaged in scientific activity that allows them to integrate and apply key chemical concepts considered in the lab. Besides descriptive chemistry, the principles of bonding, intermolecular forces, reaction kinetics, equilibrium, acid-base, oxidation and reduction and coordination chemistry are emphasized.

What is life? Philosophers, theologians, and scientists have been pondering that profound question for centuries. This course explores the question from a biological perspective. Biology students will utilize their backgrounds in physics and chemistry to explore the living world through hands on activities and engaging with the latest discoveries. Lab experiments cover three broad categories: molecular and cellular biology, organismal biology, and population biology. Students are encouraged to make use of our ecologically diverse campus on the shores of Narragansett Bay by studying local flora and collecting water samples from the pond, estuary, and bay. Other lab activities include an open inquiry experiment designed to apply the scientific method to consumer product claims, a bacterial identification via a gram stain, using DNA to transform a strain of E. Coli to glow in the dark, simulation of the spread of an infectious disease, analysis of food content, observing embryonic development in chickens, extraction of photosynthetic pigments, testing the effect of acid rain on plant growth, simulating natural selection, testing the immunology of different species, and comparative anatomy and physiology of animals. Students spend time developing their own experiments and evaluating other experiments in order to better recognize what makes for acceptable data and the importance of peer review. Along with an introduction to the concepts and vocabulary of the science of living things, major groups from among the animals and plants are identified and studied with emphasis on their interdependence. Cellular structure and function, energy usage, reproduction, heredity, evolution, behavior, and ecology are specific areas explored. An appreciation of the anatomy and physiology of the major systems of the body help students to understand the intricacies of their own bodies and what results if balance is not maintained. Students are also introduced to the primary research literature and are encouraged to explore their own questions via daily participation, weekly article summaries, and extensive lab reports.

This course delves more deeply into the world of living things than Biology.  Enrollment is dependent on departmental recommendation.

This course is designed around the AP Biology curriculum framework and is centered on the four big ideas of biology:

Big idea 1: The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life. 
Big idea 2: Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce, and to maintain dynamic
Big idea 3: Living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes.
Big idea 4: Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions possess complex properties.

Each big idea is supported by enduring understandings and essential knowledge, which are taught in relationship to each other and to the associated big idea(s).  Students delve into the concepts by doing intense inquiry-based experiments correlated with independent reading in the textbook. Class time is divided between intense open inquiry investigation and seminars mimicking a college classroom. Students are required to read primary literature in addition to the textbook for each big idea and practice their understanding of the big ideas via oral lab meetings. Students discuss the results of their weekly experiments and clarify information from their reading in front of their peers. Chemistry is a prerequisite. Biology AP may be taken as a first course in biology if recommended by the department or as a second course in biology by students with a strong science background.

Infectious Disease will introduce students to the agents that caused some of the worst pandemics in human history and also look at some of the more subtly-acting microbes that may emerge in the future. A broad overview of viruses, bacteria, select parasites, and immunology will equip students to understand how microbes cause disease and how our body tries to fight them off naturally and with the help of public health’s greatest success story-vaccines. Major historical outbreaks will be covered in detail including the 1918 flu, Bubonic Plague, and various Ebola outbreaks, among others. Students will also learn the latest techniques in microbiology that scientists have harnessed using the unique capabilities of microbes themselves including CRISPR, gene therapy using viruses, and  manipulating the microbiome. Readings will be from popular-level books, scientific review papers, and news articles, and students will perform a week-long intensive lab experiment each term.

This is a post-AP, independent-study lab course for advanced chemistry students. The class seeks to apply and integrate the principles of green chemistry - the use of chemical research to address the problems confronting society with minimal environmental impact and sustainability, while employing qualitative, quantitative and instrumental analysis. Some of the lab projects undertaken are the synthesis and comparison of  biofuels from natural oils, evaluating the effectiveness of physical, chemical and biological surfactants on cleaning up oil spills, the conversion of polylactic acid cups to a cleaner, creation of solar cells using natural pigments, studying "greener" compounds for use in heat and cold packs, rate law determination using natural substances, and investigating the effects of microbeads and triclosan on aquatic organisms.

This course investigates the world in which we live by studying our natural resources and how we interact with them. Students learn the scientific concepts and investigative techniques required to understand the environmental problems our society faces today and in the future. The word environmental broadly refers to everything around us: air, land, water, and the varied populations of living things. To take advantage of Portsmouth Abbey's proximity to the marine environment of Narragansett Bay, marine biology is emphasized including plant and animal identification and the basic concepts of oceanography. This course examines some of the greatest ocean explorers, the physical and chemical properties of sea water, the ecological interactions and principles that are vital to understanding the ocean food web, evolution of marine life, and all major marine phyla. Increased awareness of the ocean as an extremely significant natural resource is a goal of the course. With our campus-wide green initiatives, conservation is stressed. In the spring, emphasis is placed on dissections, construction of an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and a field trip to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  Students taking this course should have completed Biology or be taking Biology concurrently.

This course is divided into two major sections. The first section deals with the study of basic anatomy and emergency medicine. Students learn how the body functions as well as how to treat and care for a variety of health situations. The second section of this course explores the effects exercise and nutrition has on the human physiology and also examines how recent medical advances can influence us personally. Students taking this course should have completed Biology or be taking Biology concurrently.

AP Physics analyzes motion using more sophisticated tools than at the introductory level.  With weekly lab activities, often using computer based data collection and analysis software, students gain a solid appreciation of how mathematical models can describe real world events.  Trigonometry is used from the start, with increasing use of calculus as the year goes on.  The course includes topics from classical mechanics, including vectors in three dimensions, Newton's laws, conservation of energy, conservation of momentum, and rotation.  With the fundamental principle mastered, students can then examine more specialized motions, including gravitation and orbits, oscillations of springs and pendulums, and motion subject to damping forces.  Students take the AP-C Examination in Mechanics in the Spring.  Time at the end of the year after the AP Exam is normally spent looking at the basics of Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity.  A previous Physics course and at least concurrent study of calculus are prerequisites.

Performing Arts

Performing in front of an audience can have a profound impact on a student. It is an exhilarating experience that builds self-esteem and confidence. 

Through a systematic rehearsal process, students are given the tools to intellectually, physically, and vocally expand and strengthen their stage presence and performance abilities. These experiences and skills will help students in future leadership, artistic, and public speaking situations.  Theater is a collaborative art, drawing on the artistry and craftsmanship of other, non-performative disciplines, such as stage, lighting, sound and costume design. For each production, therefore, students are also offered the opportunity to participate as a member of the stage crew, where they can develop their skills in all of these areas. 

Music is the most intangible of the arts; yet it has expressed and contributed to the formation of cultures past and present. In the courses described below, students work toward an articulate understanding of music through examination of its language. They become better able to interpret its emotional impact. But, more importantly, they attempt to grasp not only how music is a creative art for composer, performer, and listener, but also what theoretical disciplines and aesthetic laws shape it.

This course serves as an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in both practical and theoretical elements of music. An introduction to the fundamentals of music theory will set the stage for a broad exploration of several practical music applications including composition, improvisation, performance, and analysis. Each student will be expected to choose a primary instrument with which to participate in the practical music applications during class. For those students with no instrumental experience or those focused on singing, the student may use his/her voice as an instrument. It is also possible for a student to, with the guidance of the teacher, learn a new instrument as part of the course. Throughout the course, the students will be exposed to diverse styles of music ranging from ancient Greek theatrical music to Beethoven’s symphonies to Radiohead.

The purpose of this course is to provide a broad and intensive curriculum that will delve deeply into the inner workings of music. Aspects of music theory including pitch, rhythm, tonality, melody, harmony, counterpoint, and form will be analyzed in detail. In addition to developing analytical skills necessary for understanding complex musical structures, this course will assist the student in developing aural recognition skills that will allow him/her to both recognize common tonal patterns as well as reproduce these patterns with his/her voice. This course prepares students for the AP Exam in Music Theory.

From classic dramas to contemporary musicals, the Abbey Players provide ambitious students with an exciting outlet for creative expression through three productions each year. Working on either side of the curtain, students learn about the immediate but indelible nature of this most collaborative of the arts.

With a playful, hands-on approach, this class introduces students to all aspects of theater, including acting, directing, and playwriting.  Participants engage in many performance-based activities, including improvisation and mask work, as well as rehearsing and performing monologues and scenes from classical and contemporary plays.  Through physical and vocal warm-ups, the students develop a technique for performing, one that will serve them in all public speaking situations.  The class also sheds light on the rich and varied history of theater from around the world.  Students read plays, research periods of drama, and create presentations that connect the past to the present.  Each term, the class attends a live performance at a professional theater in Rhode Island, with artists often vising the class afterwards to share their experiences.  Overall, students learn about the vital role that theater can play in our communities.    

The Abbey dance program combines the basic goals of both the athletic and performing arts programs: to increase the strength, flexibility and coordination of the student, to refine social interaction, and to cultivate the capacity for presence and aesthetic sensibility. Dance is offered as part of our co-curricular activities in the fall. This program explores modern dance, ballet, tap, jazz, and student choreography, along with strength and flexibility training such as Yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. The program culminates in a performance for the Abbey community at the end of the term.  Students also have an opportunity to dance in the winter term by participating in the musical.

Visual Arts

The Visual Arts program at Portsmouth Abbey School is a motivating and competitive program that fosters creative ideas, allows students to communicate visually, and develop an appreciation for all forms of art.

Under the guidance of resident artist teachers, Portsmouth Abbey encourages students while building confidence and visual literacy through their own artwork.The oversized windows of our McGuire Fine Arts Center provide an abundance of natural light to our spacious open studios for painting, drawing and ceramics, while inspiring our students with panoramic views of our coastal campus. With additional studios for darkroom photography and digital media, our visual arts program serves as a catalyst for students to take risks, make connections with other academic courses and to cultivate new interests. Throughout the visual art curriculum, we ask students to think about how they are communicating their ideas, open pathways for cross-disciplinary collaborations and aesthetically analyze the works of their peers and other artists. Our curriculum can be tailored to a specific interest, from Fundamentals of Art to AP Art History. At Portsmouth Abbey, the visual arts program bridges the connections between our rigorous academic curriculum and personal expression.

The Fundamentals of Art course is a spark for students to visually appreciate the creative environment at Portsmouth Abbey School. This year long course is an introduction to the essential foundation skills for all art media. Students will have the opportunity to experience a variety of different visual arts media as they learn to think aesthetically, observe critically, and develop creative problem solving skills. This course will emphasize perspective, composition, and color theory through the exploration of different artists and art movements in history. At the end of the year, each student will have experienced each visual art discipline we have to offer, while obtaining a collection of work to build their confidence and enroll in other art courses.

Students will be exposed to the ideas of make non-representational and representational works of art that stimulate their ideas and visual expression. With a basis of skills and understandings from the Fundamentals of Art course, students in this year-long course will solve advanced artistic problems while working in more challenging two-dimensional media. Using a variety of materials such as graphite, charcoal, Photoshop, acrylic paint and watercolor, students will have the opportunity to explore in-depth creative subjects in still life compositions, graphic design, architectural renderings and printmaking. To conclude the year in 2-D Art, each student works on a six-week independent project that speaks to his or her own artistic voice and challenges them to begin thinking conceptually. This final project is the start of building an art portfolio to represent his or her artistic skills for further discovery in Advanced Art.

Have you ever ‘thrown’ a pot or ‘pulled’ a handle? Students who have completed the Fundamentals of Art prerequisite course may explore all of this and more in our year-long ceramics course. The techniques of hand-built and wheel-thrown functional forms and non-utilitarian sculptural forms will be taught along with glaze application, kiln firing procedures, and clay conservation and reconstitution. Upon completion, students will have a knowledge base of the ceramic processes and a collection of work for developing a ceramic portfolio.

If you have ever wondered about the magic of darkroom photography, this year long course will help you discover the creative science of black and white film and digital color photography with Adobe Photoshop. This course combines aesthetic appreciation with technical expertise to guide the student in producing a portfolio of fine quality prints. During the first half of the year, students will learn to develop both black and white film and produce prints in our spacious, well-equipped darkroom. In the last half of the year, we will concentrate on digital photography with Photoshop editing. Each student must have completed a full year of Fundamentals of Art in order to enroll in this course, as well as provide their own 35mm SLR film and digital cameras. At the completion of the year, each student will have a portfolio of prints to be used as a supplement in their college application or the beginning of an advanced art portfolio.

Students who have completed at least two years or the equivalent of two art courses in the art curriculum have the ability to enroll in Advanced Art. Each student enrolled in this course will have the opportunity to choose a studio space in the lofted area of the art building. Experiencing what it means to be a true artist in a studio, each student will be working on a series of works that will be used to develop a final high school art portfolio. This portfolio can be used as a supplement for college applications or as their final portfolio to apply for Art College. Throughout this course, students will be able to choose from a variety of media including drawing, painting, ceramics, digital design, architecture, fashion design and photography, to name a few. The advanced art course is designed to challenge students to develop a cohesive body of work with regular feedback and critique. Some students may also choose to work towards AP studio art credits with the development of an AP Art Portfolio. With a variety of chances to exhibit work and explore local museums, this course will help develop an appreciation for art and a personal voice through several creative processes.

From the immense pyramids to the mundane soup can, the entire course of human history can be traced through the study of art. In the Art History AP class students travel through time with art as their compass. As the students understand the context surrounding a work of art, they are asked to form an opinion on its value both aesthetically and historically.  We also tackle the larger issues still controversial in the art world: should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece? Should Van Meegeren have been punished or praised for his forgeries? Is a Jeff Koons artwork really worth millions of dollars? After taking the Art History AP course students will see that art isn't just confined to museums and textbooks, but it rather surrounds us in our everyday lives.

Special Programs

In addition to its formal curriculum, Portsmouth Abbey offers several programs:

This course provides information and discussion opportunities for students on selected health topics. Topics include stress (recognizing and dealing with), sleep, disease, medication use (over-the-counter and prescription), nutrition, tobacco, smokeless tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol. The Medical Services Department and professional guest speakers present topics.

The School maintains a ten-hour community service requirement for all students, to be completed by the end of Fourth Form year. This program provides a window on existing volunteer work, and includes some classroom reflection on the role of service to the community. Independent projects are accepted in fulfillment of the requirement - students can be creative, take some initiative, and put together their own volunteer project or work with friends. The direct service element of the requirement may be completed in either the Third or Fourth Form.

This series of presentations begins with a discussion on stress and sleep. Other topics include: alcohol, reproduction, sexuality, and disease (in general and what’s new in the news). The Medical Services Department and professional guest speakers present topics.

Sixth Form students may elect to pursue a project as part of their program. These projects range from very formal academic activities that carry academic credit to less formal projects that allow students to pursue a particular interest. Some projects allow students to take a short leave of absence.

Instruction in piano, guitar, drums, voice, and standard orchestral instruments is readily available to students at Portsmouth Abbey. At the recommendation of the Director of Music, academic credit may be given for instrumental lessons if taken for at least two years.

Students may, with departmental approval, elect to use the afternoon activity time to practice an instrument. This practice may be dedicated to individual instrumental rehearsals, geared toward a student recital or other venues. During the Winter Term, students may, with the approval of the Director of Music, choose to practice in preparation for performing in the pit orchestra for the Winter Musical.

During the afternoon activity time, students have the opportunity to work in small musical groups to learn the art of chamber music. The students learn how to work together as a single entity in achieving a unified effect and goal. The repertoire (primarily classical) also provides opportunities for practice in sight-reading, solo performance, and improvisational skills. Each group performs publicly at various school functions.

The Abbey Singers is the premier choral ensemble at Portsmouth Abbey.  Focusing on concert repertoire both sacred and secular, the Abbey Singers is a versatile group that performs music, both on and off campus, ranging from Palestrina to Billy Joel. Past collaborations have included concerts with Ponagansett High School and musicians from the U.S. Coast Guard Band. All Abbey students are welcome to participate. At the recommendation of the Director of Music, academic credit may be given to a student in the Abbey Singers following two years of participation.

The Abbey Orchestra is the principle instrumental ensemble at Portsmouth Abbey. With members playing instruments ranging from piano to piccolo, the Abbey Orchestra learns and performs a wide variety of music ranging from orchestral classics to movie scores. The Abbey Orchestra performs both on and off campus and will often collaborate with the Abbey Singers. Any Abbey student with approximately one year or more of experience with an instrument is welcome to join. At the recommendation of the Director of Music, academic credit may be given to a student in the Abbey Orchestra following two years of participation.

The Abbey Schola is a small vocal ensemble that provides liturgical music for school liturgies, particularly the Sunday Mass. The group is comprised of students taking a Sixth Form Christian Doctrine elective, or under formers who may fill in spaces as needed. This is a select group capable of learning and performing more advanced liturgical music. Abbey Schola members may also enroll in the Abbey Singers.

The Abbey Jazz Ensemble provides an opportunity for students to learn and perform jazz standards and explore improvisation and ensemble skills. Any Abbey student with approximately one year or more of experience on an instrument is welcome to join. The Jazz Ensemble performs both on and off campus.

There are two a cappella groups at Portsmouth Abbey, one for boys and one for girls, that have proven to be very popular. Each group rehearses weekly and is primarily student run with guidance from the Director of Music. Frequent performances for campus functions provide great exposure for each group.

The chamber orchestra rehearses twice a week and performs both with the Abbey Singers and alone at special occasions throughout the year.

The Abbey Players' philosophy is that there is something for everyone in theater: acting, singing, dancing, and stagecraft. Three formal dramatic productions are staged each year, including the annual Winter Musical. Participation as an Abbey Player is open to the entire student body by audition at the beginning of each term. Recent shows include: You can’t take it with you, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anything Goes, Macbeth, Fiddler on the Roof, Antigone, Romeo and Juliet, The Sound of Music, Beauty and the Beast, and The New Play Festival: featuring student-written plays.

Students may pursue formal independent study for credit at points in their academic careers where experience and interest warrant. Independent study allows a student to take full advantage of the expertise and availability of our faculty. Students normally elect independent study to pursue special academic interests that are not usually available in a secondary school curriculum.

Student in class

To fulfill the graduation requirements, a student must
complete twenty units from the following courses:

Christian Doctrine: One course in each year of attendance

English: One course in each year of attendance

Humanities: One course in Form IV (combines English, History, and Theology and counts for two credits)

Mathematics: Three years (all students are strongly recommended to take math during each year of attendance)

Science: Two years (all students are strongly recommended to take at least the core of Physics, Chemistry and Biology)

Modern Languages: Three years of one or two years of two languages (French, Greek, Latin, Spanish or Chinese); students with native fluency may be exempted from this requirement.

Classics: Students entering in Form III are required to take Latin.

History: Form III students are required to take Ancient/Medieval History. Form IV students are required to take Humanities. All students are required to take one year of US History.

Arts: One full credit course or an approved equivalent